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Digital Transformation

Salesforce Financial Services Leaders from Across Retail Banking, Insurance, and Wealth Management Weigh in on What to Expect in the New Year


Like with many other industries, COVID-19 ushered in the future of technology in the financial services industry ahead of schedule. Years-long digital initiatives had to be executed in a matter of weeks as the pandemic shifted in-person interactions online. Now, with the future at our doorstep, the question persists: what is next for financial services? To find out, we asked Salesforce leaders across insurance, retail banking, and wealth and asset management to weigh in on what to expect in the industry in 2021.

A Customer-Centric Approach, First and Foremost

The industry as a whole is shifting from providing financial services to financial enablement, as financial services providers push to deliver value beyond products and services. This means focusing on meeting customers’ needs, delivering against their goals, and supporting their financial wellness all at the same time. 

Removing friction from the customer journey – Retail banks know that customers crave connected experiences, no matter the channel. But the stakes this decade are even higher: banks should have visibility into their customers’ entire financial lives. Further, banks must invest in financial wellness strategies. 74 percent of retail bankers say the pandemic has made focusing on clients’ financial well-being more important than ever.  To pull this off, banks will focus on two things: 

1) Leveraging data for proactive sales and service offerings that are relevant to individuals’ lives

2) Connecting mission critical business processes like new customer onboarding, account origination, service fulfillment and relationship deepening for holistic financial service. 

— Rohit Mahna, SVP & General Manager, Financial Services

New tech addresses evolving client expectations and business operations requirements – AI is only getting smarter. For wealth and asset managers, AI can help firms create individualized experiences such as more tailored risk profiles, personalized portfolio construction and advice, and customized client reports. Technology services will continue to grow as a distinct business line for firms. Case in point: check out Blackrock’s Aladdin portfolio management system; Invesco’s online automated investment platform, Jemstep; and Franklin Templeton’s acquisition of wealth management software, AdvisorEngine. — Andy Wang, Global Head of Wealth and Asset Management

Comprehensive Financial Life Management and Wellness – The role of the financial advisor itself will expand: from provider of investment advice to financial life coach. Advisors will provide guidance on a broader array of issues like budgeting, protection (e.g., life, property and casualty insurance), estate planning, and family dynamics. Further, financial advising will cover the intersection between wealth and health, by managing health care costs, funding retirement housing, sourcing concierge service. Already, 72 percent of wealth and asset managers say that focusing on client well-being has increased in importance since the onset of the pandemic. Consider this one trend that’s only just beginning to take off. — Kerry Ryan, CPWA(R) Director, Wealth and Asset Management

“COVID-19 brought on a tidal wave of change. Today and tomorrow’s financial services industry must focus on delivering hyper-personalized customer experiences across channels. The only way to do that is with a strong, agile digital foundation.” — Namer  Aljazrawi, Head of Strategy & Operations, Financial Services

The New Digital Baseline

While the concept of digital transformation is nothing new, the bar for success is higher than ever before. With 2020 (thankfully) in the rearview mirror, financial services providers must enhance digital products and services in order to meet elevated customer expectations. The stakes couldn’t be higher. 

Digital investments continue to accelerate – COVID-19 and the subsequent stress on banks’ traditional distribution channels (e.g., branches, call centers, relationship managers) that often relied on in-person interactions exposed significant gaps in technology and the customer experience. These stressors were compounded by rising expectations: 68 percent of customers say COVID-19 elevated their expectations of companies’ digital capabilities. Looking ahead, online self-service options will be table stakes as well as enhancements to mobile experiences, chatbots, on-demand knowledge, text, and voice as channels of engagement.To deliver, retail banks will need to invest in enterprise-wide, coordinated integration strategies to establish agile digital foundations. — Greg Blausey, Director of Banking

Doubling down on automation – The surge in digital spurred a reckoning for insurers overly reliant on manual processes. While manual workarounds were good enough in the past, the spike in online interactions made this untenable. Moving forward, insurers will streamline and automate processes wherever possible and move solutions to the cloud. We’re already seeing these priorities bubble to the top of insurance companies’ list. According to a recent study of 2,800 financial services leaders, implementing new technologies and automating processes were the number one and number four priorities for insurers, respectively. Moreover, 42 percent of insurers have automated processes since the onset of the pandemic to prepare for future major disruptions. Not only do insurers stand to benefit from back-office efficiencies like faster claims processing, AI-powered automation can uncover entirely new value streams like modularized policies. Expect more to come. — Tom King, Director of Insurance

Digital expectations result in shifting business models and distribution systems – Consumers expect more blended physical and digital experiences, especially as offices reopen. Already, 45 percent of wealth managers have expanded to support new channels amid the pandemic and meet changing demands. However, offering services across new channels won’t cut it. Wealth and asset managers must optimize those channels based on client preferences. We call this moving from an omni-channel framework to an opti-channel framework: communication channels that are optimized to best reflect the unique needs of each client, with personalization as the ultimate goal. Wealth and asset management products themselves will augment human-led advice with artificial intelligence for more powerful, personalized service. — Rob Seaman, [General Manager of Financial Services]

“We have entered a distinct new era of transformation that will reshape the financial services markets for years to come and any incumbent not investing aggressively to innovate using technology will lose their relevance.” — Ayan Sarkar, VP of Insurance

2020 taught us that a lot can happen in a year. How is your company preparing for what’s next?